Ultimate Cycling Safety Tips
Cycling is a fantastic way to have fun, stay healthy, and commute in a cheap and nature-friendly way.
But how safe is it to ride your bike in traffic? We all know that we need to be mindful when cycling, but do we really think about every aspect of cycling safety?
We believe that many don’t. This is why we’ve created this knowledge base of 30+ cycling safety tips that will help you ride your bike accident-free for years to come.
Start reading and stay safe out there on the road!
Always Wear A Helmet
The helmet is the most important piece of cycling safety equipment. Always make sure to wear it, no matter how long or short your ride is. It can potentially save your life or protect you from serious injuries if you hit your head when you fall. Your helmet should fit your well and sit tightly on your head.
Wear High-Visibility Clothes
Black clothes look cool, we agree. However, when you go out for a ride, you should try to wear bright-colored clothes with reflective stripes on them. Colors like orange, red, bright green, pink, and yellow are a great choice. They will make you much more visible on the road, allowing drivers to spot you earlier and react properly.
Don’t Use Headphones
Long rides can often become boring, especially when you’re out there alone. However, you should resist the temptation to wear headphones/earphones and listen to music. Even if you wear just one earpiece, your attention will be significantly decreased. In some countries, cycling with headphones/earphones is also illegal, so you might end up getting fined.
Stay Out of the Door Zone
Be wary of parked cars. When I ride in the city, I am usually more afraid of parked cars than of those that are moving. The most dangerous thing about them is the “door zone”. This refers to the area near the car where you can be hit with the door if someone opens it recklessly. Always ride at least 1 meter away from the cars to stay out of the door zone.
Use a Bike Light at All Times
Front and rear bike lights are essential when talking about cycling safety. They are a must at night or on foggy and cloudy days. However, experts say that they should be on at all times, even on very sunny days, and we agree. Drivers will spot you much more easily if your lights are on.
Check Your Brakes
Make sure that your brakes are in working order every time before you hit the road. The last thing you want to do is go for a ride and realize that you have no way of stopping the bike. This can be a major safety hazard, especially if you’re going downhill or riding in heavy traffic.
Check for Loose Bolts
Another thing you need to do before every ride is check for any loose nuts and bolts. Nowadays, modern bikes use quick-release levers for the wheels and the saddle, which can sometimes get loose. Pull on them lightly before you hop on your bike to make sure that they are tight enough. Check the bolts on the handlebar and on the brakes as well.
Pump Your Tires
Check that your tires are properly inflated and not too worn. All tires have the recommended pressure range printed on the sidewall, so ensure that the air pressure in your tires is within that range.
An overinflated tire has reduced traction and could blow. An underinflated tire could lead to a pinch-flat or even slip off the wheel, which can be extremely dangerous.
Use a Bike Bell
Invest in a bike bell or a bike siren and always have it on your handlebar. You can use it to let others know that you are approaching and avoid collisions with other cyclists and pedestrians. Don’t be afraid to use your bike bell whenever necessary, it’s better to be annoying than to crash.
This is not an obvious cycling safety tip that many riders think about, but it is definitely important. Always use sunscreen when riding in the sun. If you’re riding in summer, use sunscreen even on cloudy days, because clouds do not offer protection from UV radiation.
Use sunscreen with at least a factor 30 and don’t be stingy—apply it generously to all exposed parts of your body. It will save you from sunburns and protect you from skin cancer in the long run.
Ride on Bike Paths When Possible
Cycling as a means of transport is becoming more and more popular around the world. As a result, authorities are building more bike paths everywhere. Try to use these whenever possible and stay out of traffic. Bike paths are sometimes slower than roads, but they are much safer, which is a pretty good trade-off.
Avoid Roads with No Shoulder
If you can choose a route for your ride, always avoid roads that do not have a shoulder or a bike path. Without a shoulder, you will be riding inside the lane, along with cars and trucks, which is an accident waiting to happen. Drivers often do not want to wait for a safe moment to pass you, so they will be driving dangerously close to you more often than not.
Avoid Busy Hours
If possible, do not ride your bike on city streets during busy hours. The roads are usually busiest when people go to and come back from work, which creates big traffic jams. As a result, drivers are usually quite nervous and might drive recklessly. Moreover, just the increased concentration of traffic will significantly decrease your safety.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take the Lane
Taking the lane is an important urban cycling skill that everyone should learn and use. It means to move to the center of the lane and prevent cars from passing you. Of course, you need to do it carefully, giving the drivers behind you enough time to see what you are doing. This skill is useful when you plan to make a left turn or when you see a narrowing in the road ahead of you.
Stay Off the Sidewalks
No matter how tempted you might be to ride on sidewalks in order to avoid having to deal with traffic, we advise you not to do it. Sidewalks are not made for cycling, they are made for walking.
Pedestrians don’t always act in a predictable manner on sidewalks, which might lead to a collision. Moreover, sidewalks often have other safety hazards, such as signposts, fire hydrants, potholes, and shop doors that could open at any time.
Don’t Use Your Phone
Leave your phone in your pocket, backpack, or cycling bag when riding your bike. That’s where it belongs. Cycling and using your phone is just as dangerous as driving a car with a phone in your hand.
It will significantly decrease your attention and focus and increase your chances of making a mistake or not seeing potential danger fast enough. If you need to use a phone, dismount your bike and then do it.
Check the Weather Forecast
Depending on where you live, a sunny day can quickly turn into a rainy or a stormy one. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to check the weather forecast before heading outside, especially if you are going on a long ride. Going unprepared on a ride in the rain, hail, snow, or strong wind is incredibly dangerous.
Most people make decisions in traffic based on what they expect other people to do. This is why it is important to always ride in a predictable manner. Stay in the flow with the traffic and don’t make sudden turns without signaling with your hand. If you make sure to obey all traffic laws, you will significantly improve your safety.
Never Drink and Ride
You should absolutely never drink alcohol and ride a bike. You don’t drink and drive, so why would you drink and ride? Alcohol decreases your focus and increases your reaction time, which means that you are more likely to make a crucial mistake. Plus, it affects your balance, which is, of course, necessary when riding a bike.
Control Your Speed on Downhills
Speed is fun, but it can be dangerous as well, especially if you’re an inexperienced cyclist. Therefore, it’s important to control your speed on downhills and brake before you reach a bend. Turning at high speeds is almost impossible on a bike, which is something many new riders learn the hard way.
Stop at Red Lights
Don’t be the guy that gives other cyclists a bad name. Always stop at red lights and wait for them to turn green. You cannot expect others to treat you like a vehicle if you do not act like one. Jumping red lights poses a serious risk to you, to other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.
Avoid Vehicles’ Blind Spots
All vehicles have blind spots due to the way in which they are designed. Cars’ blind spots are the rear right and rear left ends. Drivers will have a hard time seeing you if you ride immediately behind them, to their left or right.
Trucks have an even larger blind spot. A truck driver cannot see what is happening next to his doors unless they pop their head through the window and take a look.
Use Hand Signals
If you want to stay safe while riding your bike, you should let others know what you’re planning to do by using hand signals.
When making a left turn, extend your left hand; when making a right turn, extend your right hand. Always make hand signals ahead of the move and not during the move. This will give others enough time to act accordingly.
Avoid Busy Junctions and Roundabouts
If you ride in an area than you know well, you should try to avoid busy junctions and roundabouts. This is where the majority of traffic accidents involving cyclists happen. If it’s not possible to avoid them, you can either approach them super-carefully or dismount your bike and push it across a pedestrian crossing.
Ride a Bike that Fits You Well
Never ride a bicycle that is too big or too small for you. If your bike does not fit you well, you will have a hard time controlling it, especially when you need to make a tight turn or a sudden maneuver. Also, make sure that your saddle is properly adjusted. If it’s not, you can damage your knees or lose balance and fall.
Establish Eye Contact with Drivers
When approaching an intersection or a roundabout, make sure that other drivers have seen you before you proceed. The best way to do this is by establishing eye contact with them. If you think they haven’t seen you, you should use your voice or wave your hands to attract their attention. Of course, always stay cautious, because even eye contact is not a guarantee that they will not do something reckless and stupid.
Ride Single File
If you don’t like riding alone and prefer group rides, you should always ride single file and never next to each other. If you want to chat with the person you’re riding with, you should stop on the side of the road or at a cafe and do it there. All other riding formations except for the single file are against traffic laws in many countries.
Don’t Wear Slippery Shoes
Something that the majority of leisure cyclists do not think about is the shoes they wear when they go for a ride. If you’re using flat pedals, they can become quite slippery with certain types of shoes.
This usually happens when it’s wet outside, in which case it is almost impossible to keep your feet on the pedals. To avoid this from happening, make sure to wear shoes with a rubber sole or use clipless pedals.
Tuck Your Shoelaces and Pants
The last thing you want to happen to you when riding your bike is getting your shoelaces caught in the crank or the chain. This is a major safety hazard that could lead to a fall. If you have very long shoelaces, tuck them into your shoes—this will keep them clean as well.
The same can happen with pants. Loose pants can get dirty from the chain, but they can also get caught up in the crank. To prevent this from happening, either tuck them into your socks or tie a reflective band around them to make them fit tightly.
Wear Bike Gloves
Cycling gloves are not used just for comfort, they have a safety role as well. Yes, they will protect your wrists from vibrations and make your ride smoother. However, they will also prevent your hands from slipping off the handlebar in case your palms get wet or sweaty. Gloves are quite cheap and they usually look nice, so there is no reason not to wear them.
Install a Rear-view Mirror
Unfortunately, rear-view mirrors are not something you see often on the streets. This has to change, especially for urban commuters. Rear-view mirrors can be installed on the handlebar or on the helmet.
They will allow you to see what is happening behind you and help you make better decisions. These are usually cheap and lightweight, which makes them a fantastic investment.
Keep Your Hands on the Handlebar
Make sure to keep both of your hands on the handlebar when you’re riding. Of course, you can take one or both of your hands for a few seconds to reach for something, such as your water bottle. But don’t ride without using your hands just to show off.
You might think that you know what you’re doing, but even a tiny rock can throw you off your bike without your hands to correct the balance.
Stay Away from the Curb
Your instinct might tell you that you should keep as far away from the traffic and ride as close as possible to the curb. However, that’s a big mistake. You should always ride at least 2 feet away from the curb to avoid smashing into it and to prevent drivers from squeezing next to you when passing you.
Moreover, sewer grates and potholes are usually very close to the curb, which can throw you off your bike or damage your wheels.
Stop Behind Cars at Intersections
At intersections, especially when you’re waiting at a red light, always stop behind a car instead of next to it. If you stop next to a car, there is a high chance that you will end up in their blind spot. If they decide to turn right, there is a possibility that they will run into you.
If you stop behind a car, you will be visible from all angles and you can easily move to the right side of the road once the traffic light turns green once again.
Always Pass on the Left
Never, ever pass other cars or cyclists on the right. It’s one of the most reckless things someone can do. Nobody expects you to pass them on the right, so they might hit you if they decide to pull over, turn right, or park their vehicle.
Instead, when it is safe to do so, pass other vehicles on the left, after looking behind you and properly indicating a left turn with an extended left hand.
Walk Your Bike on Sidewalks
If you decide to cross the road on a sidewalk, always dismount your bike and walk it across. Riding your bike across sidewalks is dangerous and disrespectful to pedestrians and drivers.
There’s a high chance that you will collide with someone or just make someone very angry. This is one of the reasons why so many people have a negative opinion on cyclists, so don’t be the guy who gives them a reason to hate on us.
Watch Your Speed on Shared Paths
Both cyclists and pedestrians are legally allowed to use shared paths. That’s something you need to keep in mind when you decide to use them. Pedestrians will often walk their pets on shared paths or take their kids for a walk.
Therefore, you need to watch your speed and keep it below 15 mph. This will give you enough time to stop suddenly if need be and avoid crashing or bumping into somebody.
Watch for Animals on the Road
Personally, I’ve had some pretty close calls with animals on my rides. My close encounters included snakes, rabbits, cats, dogs, and even wild bores. You cannot predict when an animal will run across the road, but you can take some measures to protect yourself.
If you’re riding in an area where wild or stray animals are a common sight, you should ride closer to the middle of the road and be more alert than usual.
Carry a Patch Kit at All Times
If you plan to go for a long ride, you should always have a patch kit with yourself. These are usually small and easily fit in your pocket or a saddlebag, so you can comfortably carry them wherever you go.
The last thing you want to do is end up stranded with a flat tire in an isolated or dangerous area. Along with a patch kit, carry 2 tire levers and a spare tube as well.
Bring Some Cash with You
Money is not the most important thing in the world, but it is quite important to have peace of mind when going for a long ride. You never know what might happen, so you should be prepared for unexpected costs.
For example, you might end up hypoglycemic and craving something sweet from the shop. You might also run out of water on a hot day, which you can replenish easily if you have cash.
Never Ride on the Wrong Side of the Road
You might have read or heard somewhere that riding your bike on the opposite side of the road is safer because you will be able to see oncoming traffic in front of you. That’s not true and it’s very dangerous! Never ride on the wrong side of the road!
If you ride against the traffic, you will have almost no time to react if something unexpected happens. Moreover, nobody expects you to be there, so you will definitely make a lot of people very angry.